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2000: The year that wasn't

Country Standard Time Editorial, January 2001

So ends another desultory year for the country music industry. Hardly anyone seems to be mourning the end of this year.

Positives don't exactly abound. About the biggest success story was the Dixie Chicks, who continued right where they left off, but pushed it a step further with a highly successful "Fly" tour.

Lee Ann Womack seems to have broken out, taking her career to the next level. Deservedly so given her great voice, a fine album and a moving single, "I Hope You Dance."

In addition to taking a big whack at Nashville, Alan Jackson also released yet another great traditional country album, sticking to his guns no matter what the trend.

But one would be hard pressed to think of any other good developments in country. Perhaps in a back-handed way, the emergence of small labels, like Audium, are welcome. They have given birth to new music from the likes of Loretta Lynn and Porter Wagoner, showing that just because you're getting on in years doesn't mean you can't make a quality album.

And others like Emmylou Harris and Merle Haggard opted to go to non-Nashville labels to put out their new music.

Where did that leave the major labels? Pretty much scrambling and figuring out their next moves.

The overriding sound continued to be the pop country side of the market. A few albums like Jo Dee Messina's "Burn" clearly stood out as career enhancers and showing some development even if they weren't exactly hard core country.

No new acts really broke out big time. Brad Paisley continued doing well, but he almost has been a lone wolf carrying the torch for traditional country.

Instead, a look at the charts finds more often than not folks like Shania and Faith Hill (she generally sings well enough, but please don't call it country) dominating.

And the future may not look too rosy in 2001 either with Garth "retired" and many folks, like the Chicks, off the road. George Strait brings a stellar tour again in 2001, but, unfortunately, he's not playing many dates, of course.

Country still awaits the next big thing to bring it out of its doldrums. The future doesn't look bright, but at some point the cyclical music industry is due for a change.

Maybe the start of a new millennium (yes, 2001) could turn the trick. Wishful thinking? Maybe.

But the answer is probably more up to the powers that be and their friends at radio than anything else. Here's hoping...